Softball Bears Set for Weekend Trip to Kansas Invitational
Missouri State Bears (2-10, 0-0 MVC) at Kansas InvitationalThursday, March 11 - Sunday, March 14Arrocha Ballpark (750)University of Kansas - Lawrence, Kan.Live Stats: KUAthletics.com Thursday, March 11Kansas 6, Valparaiso 5 Friday, March 12Valparaiso at Kansas, PPD Saturday, March 13Missouri State vs. Valparaiso, 11:00 a.m. Valparaiso at Kansas, 1:00 p.m. Missouri State at Kansas, 3:00 p.m. Sunday, March 14Missouri State at Kansas, TBD
The Missouri State Bears will compete in their fourth and final pre-conference tournament this weekend at the Kansas Invitational in Lawrence, Kan. With heavy rains already affecting the weekend's schedule, the Bears will open play with single games against Valparaiso and host Kansas on Saturday (March 13), then square off against KU again Sunday to conclude play.
Live stats for each of this weekend's games at Arrocha Ballpark will be available at www.kuathletics.com.
Juniors Jenna Schwark, Christa Gammon and Ashley Knehans each bring three-game hit streaks into this weekend's action
Schwark played in her 100th career game last Sunday vs. Saint Louis
The Bears went 2-2 at last week's Missouri Breast Cancer Awareness Tournament to stop a school-record 12-game losing streak and run their all-time mark at the event to 12-8 in six entries
Five of MSU's 10 losses on the season have been one-run setbacks
Missouri State is 1-8 when comitting and error and 0-6 when the opposition plays error-free ball
Senior righty Lauren McGinley earned both MSU victories at last weekend's tourney, working complete games to propel the Bears past SEMO and UMKC; her shutout of UMKC was the first for any MSU pitcher since her own 1-0 blanking of Creighton on April 25 of last year
The Bears were picked to finish seventh in a preseason poll of the 10 Missouri Valley Conference coaches after placing seventh in the league a year ago
Missouri State took decisions from both Kansas and Valparaiso last year and is a combined 19-70 all-time vs. the two schools
The Bears are just 19-70 against Valparaiso and Kansas, but bring a two-game win streak vs. the their two opponents into the weekend. Last year, MSU got its second victory in as many games against Valparaiso, as a game-winning home run from Jessie Smith was the difference in the 7-6 victory at the Frost Classic in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Bears also defeated Kansas in their only meeting with the Jayhawks last season, turning in their best offensive day of the year to earn a 13-8 win. Overall, however, KU leads the series with MSU by a commanding 70-17 margin.
Off and Running?The Bears 2-10 start represents their worst start to a season through 12 games on record. Missouri State dropped its first seven games before topping SEMO last Saturday to end a 12-game losing streak that topped the previous school record dry spell of 10 games, which occurred during the 1989 season. In each of the Bears' two previous winless starts of five games or more under Holly Hesse, they have rebounded to post a winning season in each instance. In 2000, the Bears bounced back to finish 30-28, then came back from an 0-5 start in 2003 to go 29-25 overall.
One Bear who did get a running start to the 2010 campaign was junior infielder Jenna Schwark, who stretched her hitting streak to seven games before going hitless against Sam Houston State (Feb. 20).Schwark just missed equaling her career-long streak of eight (2/20/09 through 3/7/09), which started at last year's Sleep Inn Classic.
One and Done
In their 44 outings last season, the Bears played 17 one-run contests, going 8-9 in those games. Three of the Bears' four losses the week of April 6-12 were one-run setbacks. Missouri State dropped 4-3 and 3-2 decisions to UMKC (April 8), and then fell by a 1-0 score at Southern Illinois on April 11. Additionally, MSU defeated Wichita State, 4-0 on April 15 to stop a string of four consecutive one-run home losses. It has been much of the same so far in 2010, as the Bears are winless in five one-run games.
All-Tourney Honors for Knehans
Junior Ashley Knehans earned all-tourney honors at the North Texas Sleep Inn Classic (Feb. 19-20) after batting .500 with her first home run of the season and three runs scored in the Bears' four contests.
Despite stopping a seven-game home losing streak with a pair of wins the week of April 14-20 and defeating league-leading Creighton on the final home weekend of the season, the Bears' offense never really got untracked in its first season at Killian Softball Stadium. MSU batted .233 as a team and has hit just six of its 18 home runs on the season at home. Bears pitchers have found their new park to be even more inhospitable, having registered a 3.35 earned run average in 16 games at Killian compared to a 2.17 ERA in 24 outings away from home. However, MSU junior pitcher Lauren Supak experienced few troubles in her new park, as the right-hander posted a 1.95 ERA in 11 home appearances. The Colorado Springs product saw her streak of 17.1 straight scoreless innings at home end when Creighton scored in the top of the first inning on April 25.
The Bears one-two punch of Lauren McGinley and Lauren Supak in the circle had the opposition seeing double in the second half of the 2009 season. MSU's two Laurens combined to go 9-12 with a 2.24 ERA, 11 complete games and six shutouts over the Bears' last 22 games of the season. McGinley turned in four of her five shutouts, while Supak posted four complete games in her last eight starts and 10 outings of at least 5 2/3 innings during that span.
2009 Tourney Recap
Missouri State went 9-7 in its four pre-conference tournaments in 2009. The Bears went 2-3 at the season-opening Centenary Tournament, 3-2 at the North Texas Sleep Inn Classic, 2-0 at the Frost Classic and 2-2 at the All-Missouri Classic. MSU's pitching staff was the bright spot through much of the early portion of the season, including Lauren McGinley, who was named the Missouri Valley Conference's Co-Pitcher of the Week for the period February 23-March 1. McGinley picked up both Missouri State victories at the Frost Classic in Chattanooga, Tenn., posting 9.2 scoreless innings in all. Natalie Rose also acquitted herself well in her first collegiate action. The right-hander posted a complete-game, two-hit shutout of Bryant on Feb 7 at the Centenary Tournament, then notched a 3-1 win over Wichita State two weeks later at the Sleep Inn Classic. Rose struck out 10 batters in each outing and retired the first nine Shockers in order to lift MSU to its third straight win.
On The Board
Several Bears ranked among the Missouri Valley Conference's individual leaders during the 2009 season. Jessie Smith's .388 batting average was the third-highest in the league, while her .657 slugging percentage ranked second and her 13 stolen bases tied for the third-highest total in the MVC.
Additionally, Christa Gammon and Ashley Knehans both totaled three sacrifice flies to tie for second in the conference.
In the circle, Lauren Supak's 2.23 earned run average was the 10th-best mark in the MVC, while Lauren McGinley's five shutouts were fourth in the circuit.
Watch the Leather, Man
The 2009 season saw the Bears post impressive defensive numbers once again, as MSU finished among the top 50 teams nationally in fielding percentage for the fourth consecutive year. The Bears were the 43rd-best Division I fielding team overall, posting a .968 team fielding percentage, their fourth-highest season mark in 27 years as a Division I program.
Four for Class of 2010
Missouri State received four commitments during the National Letter of Intent signing period in November. Joining the Bears for the 2010-11 academic year will be St. Louis-area native Ashley Brentz (Ballwin, Mo.), along with a trio of standouts from the state of Texas, including Heather Duckworth (Mesquite), Jourdan Esquenazi (Prosper) and Savannah Wiggins (Huffman).
Brentz comes to the Missouri State program with the reputation as a speedy left-handed slapper who can play a number of different positions. A three-time all-conference selection as an infielder at Parkway South High School, Brentz swiped 50 bases in her career and helped lead the Patriots to a Missouri Class 4 runner-up finish as a junior in 2008. Playing on a team that produced three Division I signees, she added all-district and all-region honors to her resume after leading South in hitting with a .450 average this past fall.
A four-sport athlete, as well as team mascot at North Mesquite High School, Duckworth is a three-time all-district performer as a corner infielder heading into her final prep season. This past spring, she was named Texas 11-5A District Offensive Player of the Year after earning a co-defensive player of the year nod the previous season. Duckworth also picked up district academic honors as a junior and played summer/fall ball for the same 18U Texas Glory Gold club that produced current MSU freshman Stevie Pierce.
Esquenazi will give the Bears another versatile weapon, but could have the chance to make an immediate impact in the circle for MSU. The right-hander was named Texas District 9-3A Pitcher of the Year in 2009, as well as Prosper High School's defensive MVP as a junior when she led her team to a regional semifinal appearance and a 26-10 overall record. The previous season, Esquenazi earned 9-3A's Utility Player of the Year honor in helping the Eagles to a district co-championship.
Wiggins joins the MSU program after earning Texas District 21-4's MVP award as a junior last spring for Hargrave High School. She is expected to see immediate action in the circle for MSU, but has the offensive tools to earn a spot in Bears' lineup as well. Wiggins enters her senior year as a three-time all-district performer, two-time team MVP and academic all-district honoree. She also earned four letters in volleyball at Hargrave and played summer ball for the 18U Texas Peppers Tanel 360 club.
MVC Preseason Poll
The Missouri State softball team was picked to finish seventh in the 2010 Missouri Valley Conference coaches' preseason poll. Three-time defending regular-season champion Creighton was the overwhelming favorite among coaches, gathering eight first-place votes and 97 points total. Southern Illinois garnered 85 total points to place second, followed by UNI (77) and Drake (71), which received one first-place vote. Illinois State (66) was picked fifth, while the Bears received 36 points, which was 11 points shy of Wichita State in the sixth spot. Bradley (33), Indiana State (21) and Evansville (17) rounded out the bottom third of the poll.
Bears Under Holly Hesse
Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, '82) is 548-533-2 (.507) in her 22nd season at Missouri State. Last season, the Bears finished 19-25, one year after going 28-22 and recording three wins in two days at the MVC Tournament to reach the title game.
Hesse led the Bears to a school-record 40 wins and a berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2006. Hesse's teams have made four trips to the NCAA Tournament (1996, 1997, 1998, 2006) and have won four Missouri Valley Conference tournament championships. She also led the Bears to the Gateway Conference regular season championship in 1992 and the MVC regular season title in 1994. The Bears' second-place MVC in finish in 2006 marked the 12th time during her tenure the Bears have finished in the top-five of the conference standings. It was also the sixth time the Bears have won 30 games in a season, with an average of over 26 wins per season since her arrival in 1989.
Hesse won her 500th career game at Missouri State in a 1-0 triumph over Indiana State on April 22, 2007. She joined Illinois State's Melinda Fischer and Creighton's Brent Vigness as the only active MVC coaches with 500 career wins.